How to Build Muscle With Bodyweight Exercises

The most common mistake made by people who endeavour to build muscle with bodyweight exercises today is they fail to follow the principles of muscle growth and instead perform high repetition sets of simple exercises. For example, you cannot build an impressive chest by doing sets of 30, 50 0r even a 100 press ups as this brakes the rules of muscle growth and can only result in improved muscular endurance.

The number of sets and reps required for muscle building

After nearly 100 hundred years of experimentation it has been proven time and time again that the best way to build muscle size is a routine that consists of 4 exercises of 3-4 sets of 6-10 repetitions for each muscle. This is the system that practically all professional body builders use today and is the same system that Legends such as Arnold Schwarzenegger and Frank Zane used 35 years ago and that is because it works.

Your body does not differentiate between the resistance offered through weight training or your own body and therefore, if you follow the same number of exercises, sets and repetitions for building muscle with bodyweight exercises as you would with weights you will get the same results. So the secret is to continually increase the difficulty of your bodyweight exercises so that a set of 6-10 reps is as taxing as an exercise with weights would be.

The two methods of making bodyweight exercises more demanding.

The first method used to increase the intensity of a bodyweight exercise and therefore enable you to keep within the 6-10 rep range needed for muscle growth is to change the position of your body slightly to alter the leverage being offered. For example, in an exercise such as press ups you can progress from the standard version, to diamond, hip and then planche press ups. Each of these exercises is more difficult than the previous one and you are therefore able to use the principal of progression to develop increasing levels of strength and muscle. If you consider that in over 20 years of owning gyms I could count the number of people that can do 10 planche press ups on one hand you can see how with a little imagination you can always keep the number of reps within the 6-10 range needed.

The second method of increasing the intensity of bodyweight exercises is to gradually progress from the two limbed to one limb version of an exercise. If you take pull ups as an example, you can progress from standard two arm pull ups, to negative one arm pull ups to finally doing one arm pull ups. I have never seen any one who is able to do 10 consecutive one arm pull ups so remember it is always possible to keep the repetition range in the 6-10 range needed to build muscle with bodyweight exercises.

The number of times per week you should train

We are all limited by time restrictions in life and with work, family and the general necessities of day to day living it is sometimes hard to fit in your training sessions. However, if you want to build muscle with bodyweight exercises you need to train as often as body builders who use weights do and that means you need to do 4 sessions per week using a split routine which enables you to train both the top and bottom part of your body twice per week.

Quality of training

It does not matter what type of training you do or how many times a week you train, if the intensity is not there you are wasting you time. You can only encourage muscle growth if you constantly make the muscles work harder.

The muscle building Diet

The diet you implement is arguably the most important factor for muscle growth and it is fair to say that you will only succeed if you follow certain rules.

To protect you from possible injury your body adapts to your exercise program by building more muscle so that it can cope better with the demands you place on it the next time you train. However, nothing can be built from nothing and your body cannot build muscle unless you provide it with the nutrients it needs so include the following.

Calories, you need to make sure you consume 500 more calories per day than your body would need to maintain your present weight.

Protein, apart from water, muscle is made up almost entirely of protein and it follows that in order to build more muscle you have to consume more protein. The recommended guide line for protein is that each day you have 1.5 to 2 grams of protein for every kilogram that you weigh.

It is also recommended that you eat only good quality food and that your diet is made up of 50 % carbohydrates (mainly complex ones such as brown rice and green vegetables), 25 % protein such as lean meat, fish and eggs and 25% fats (Mainly monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats from olive oil, nuts, seeds and sunflower oil.

If you follow these guidelines you should increase your bodyweight by approximately 1 pound per week. However, everybody is unique so it is not cast in stone and some experimentation maybe necessary to get the right balance.


Sleep is when all your hard training pays off because it is when you sleep that your body repairs itself and makes you bigger and stronger. Try to get at least 7 or 8 hours sleep per night. If you still be young enough to want to party all weekend then the odd late night won’t hurt you but if you constantly party you will not make as much progress as might otherwise be the case.


Motivation is with out doubt the single most important thing needed for building muscle or anything else in life. Regardless of any other factor if you do not have enough motivation to implement the changes necessary you simply cannot succeed.


How important your genetic make-up is in reaching your goal depends on what goal you have set yourself and how your genetic make-up fits in with it.

The first thing to say is regardless of your genetic history everybody is capable of building a body to be proud of with the right training methods, diet and motivation. The only variable is that it can take longer for some than for others.

However, if you want to be the new Arnold Schwarzenegger or Dorean Yates I’m afraid it is only those who are fortunate enough to have the perfect genetics for building muscle that can achieve that level of success. Whilst it is true that these legends have unbelievable motivation, drive and intelligence so do many others who will never be as successful. Building muscle is easy but to be the best you need the best genetics. For example, the great Tour De France rider Lance Armstrong’s heart is one third bigger than the average persons. You can see he had the perfect genetics for his sport.


In my years as a gym owner and instructor I have seen many young men put on huge amounts of muscle very quickly through the use of steroids

The people who do go down this road will never gain the same respect given to those who have built there bodies through hard work and dedication and neither should they.

Anything which can dramatically alter your body must also have dramatic side effects. As the saying goes, every action has a reaction. If you doubt this check out the chronic illness and premature death rates of the body builders of the 60s and 70s. Steroids are a definite no, no.


You can build muscle with bodyweight exercises if you follow the principles of weight training and include the same number of exercises, sets, repetitions and continually progress to more demanding exercises.

All muscle building programs depend on the correct diet to ensure success.

If you have the dedication and motivation to follow all these recommendations you will succeed and that is a scientific fact. The only variable is the time it will take the individual.